It's recommended that if you're pregnant or planning to become pregnant you should not drink alcohol. This will keep any risk to your baby to a minimum.
Drinking in pregnancy can lead to long-term harm to the baby, with the more you drink, the greater the risk.
How does alcohol affect my unborn baby?
When you drink, alcohol passes from your blood through the placenta to your baby and can seriously affect its development.
Your baby does not have a fully developed liver and cannot process alcohol.
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth and your baby having a low birthweight. It can also affect your baby after they're born.
Drinking during pregnancy can cause your baby to develop a serious life-long condition called foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD).
FASD can cause problems with:
- learning and behaviour
- joints, bones, muscles and some organs
- managing emotions and developing social skills
- hyperactivity and impulse control
- communication, such as problems with speech
The risk is likely to be greater the more you drink.
How to avoid alcohol in pregnancy
It may not be as difficult as you think to avoid alcohol completely during pregnancy. Many women go off the taste of alcohol early in pregnancy.
Most women give up alcohol once they know they're pregnant or when they're planning to become pregnant.
Women who find out they're pregnant after already having drunk in early pregnancy should avoid further drinking for the rest of their pregnancy.
However, they should not worry unnecessarily, as the risks of their baby being affected are likely to be low. If you're concerned, talk to a midwife or doctor.
Getting help to stop drinking alcohol
If you have difficulty stopping drinking, talk to a midwife, doctor or pharmacist.
Confidential help and support is also available from a number of different organisations, including:
- Drinkaware – run a national alcohol helpline; if you're worried about your own or someone else's drinking, call this free helpline on 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9am to 8pm, weekends 11am to 4pm)
- We Are With You – a UK-wide treatment agency that helps individuals, families and communities manage the effects of alcohol and drug misuse
- Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) – a free self-help group; its "12-step" programme involves getting sober with the help of regular support groups